Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist
Look Inside Actresses and Whores

Actresses and Whores
On Stage and in Society


  • Date Published: February 2005
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521541022

£ 34.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • The image of the actress as prostitute has haunted the theatrical profession since women first went on the stage. This book explores the history of this connection both in the cultural imagination and in real life. It shows, through case studies of women working in Britain and the United States between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, that some women have drawn on the dual tradition of 'whore' as radical and victim to carve out a space for female sexual agency. Female performers from Elizabeth Boutell and Charlotte Charke to Mae West redefined gender identity and appropriate female sexuality. Pullen integrates substantial archival research and interviews with working prostitutes with a consideration of feminist and cultural perspectives on the myth and reality of the actress/whore. This highly original study offers many insights to theatre historians and scholars of cultural, social and gender studies.

    • An interdisciplinary study, using archive research and cultural analysis to investigate performance history and attitudes to actresses from the seventeenth century to the present day
    • Uncovers the cultural impact of actresses from Nell Gwynne to Mae West and includes unique interviews with working prostitutes on their uses of performance and acting
    • This wide-ranging work will interest literary scholars, performance and drama scholars as well as social historians and those interested in gender and cultural studies
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'In her riveting study of the interplay between the two professions, Kirsten Pullen places actresses and whores firmly on the ever-present stage of society - and reminds us that it is not only prostitutes we remain ambivalent about, but theatre and film workers too.' New Statesman

    '… riveting study.' Fiona Shaw, New Stateman

    '… interesting study'. The Guardian

    '… Pullen's close attention to both contemporary and current accounts of each of her studied figures ensures this book is authoritative and successful in its exploration of this subject. Actresses and Whores is a comprehensive study of the questions surrounding the prostitute/performer dynamic which is both illuminating and intriguing.' Theatre Notebook

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2005
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521541022
    • length: 228 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 155 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.37kg
    • contains: 6 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. Prostitution, performance, and Mae West: speaking from the whore position
    2. Betty Boutell, 'Whom All the Town Fucks': constructing the actress/whore
    3. Memoir and masquerade: Charlotte Charke, Margaret Leeson, and eighteenth-century performances of self
    4. Burlesque, breeches, and blondes: illegitimate nineteenth-century cultural and theatrical performance
    5. 'We need status as actresses!': contemporary prostitution and performance
    6. Afterpiece: millennial prostitution

  • Author

    Kirsten Pullen, University of Calgary
    Kirsten Pullen is Assistant Professor of Performance and New Media Studies at the University of Calgary.

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.